Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Slow progress

We have just over a week left in the school year. The Senegalese students still haven't heard from the authorities whether they will be allowed a work permit or denied. But for next week they are being asked to get all their papers ready for inspection, a health check, an informational meetings - and they are asking themselves what this is all about. By now all of them have lost hope that something good will come from this, and their mood is low. So is mine.
We started with such a vibrant enthusiasm, we had so many good hours and lots of fun, they have learned so much. And now they are being let down. It is unbearable, and I am very very frustrated.
That is the one patch of frustration. The other one is that I still don't know whether the job will continue next year because although now the district has voted for a continuation, it took them so long that several of the people who had signed up for next year's class have meanwhile decided to take other options, have withdrawn their application, and right now we don't have enough people signed up to get a full class size at which the program would indeed continue.

To be prepared for everything I have ordered a new computer because the one I am using right now belongs to the school and I might have to turn it in pretty soon. I picked it up today and will spend the next days transferring everything to the new hard drive and getting used to another technical item.

So only minor things have been going on at the sewing machine. I did finish sewing the top that I started a little while ago, counting. And I used my longarm to baste it, as I won't be quilting it on the longarm.

I decided to enter this quilt for the European Quilt Triannual, so I won't be showing more pictures of it on the blog prior to deadline and decision.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Where do I go from here...?

Tomorrow is the day when a decision will be made whether after September 1 I will still be working in the job I have right now, or not. The district parliament will take their vote on whether they want to continue funding the project that was originally scheduled for a 3-year-period. However, the  responsible teacher for the class has told me she has found out that the principal of the school is not exactly what you would call a supportive part in the whole affair, in fact she is scheming against it. So I am not expecting a positive outcome for me. 
That means I will most likely find myself without a job pretty soon. Which is rather disenchanting. Despite the fact that it has been an emotionally very challenging year, much more so than I had anticipated, it has also been a wonderfully enriching and rewarding year in terms of the relationships and interactions with my students. I have enjoyed having a paid job, even if it was for only 10 hours a week, that has given me the feeling that I am actually contributing something to the family income beyond a mere work-force in household matters - which is not something I was made for, but which has really been my position in the family over the last years. The fabric business does not fulfill that 'paying' function, and making quilts is not something one can live on in Germany. So the future is rather open right now.
In a way I can appreciate the thought that it would be nice to have those hours ‘back’ for me and textile work, and, an important point, to have less emotional involvement with refugee matters that are being treated completely differently on the political side than I would like them to be treated. I can’t change German politics on my own, even though I don’t agree with it, and especially Bavarian politics. And it is costing me too much emotional and physical strength trying to do so nevertheless. I am a tired helper. On the other hand I cannot willingly withdraw from the lives of these nice people I have met and made friends with. And as a third aspect, I do want to have a job outside the house. So I have started searching. We’ll see what happens.
I am also spending quite a bit of time in the garden, as one of the students has offered to help me with digging and weeding, and what used to be an unmanageable mess has by now transformed into a well-kept area.

Trying to grow a few veggies now, after all.
The stuff in the front box is saw dust to fight the slugs.

Kohlrabi, fennel, green cabbage, and a yellow zucchini in the background

Even my old rhubarb has realized that times are a-changing
and is attempting a come-back after a couple of years of neglect.

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to become a member of another international quilt group, 12 by theD ozen, and after a few days of pondering the matter, I have decided to say yes. It is a bit of a downer that the first challenge I need to deliver for (and rather quickly) is ‘inspired by Gustav Klimt’. He is certainly not my favorite artist, in fact, I find him rather uninspiring. But I have decided to join the group nevertheless, get Klimt done and over with and then see what happens. I have even found a picture of one of his drawings in one art book that I have here at home, so did not have to search the internet or go to the library. Now I need to get to work on that quickly, as ‘reveal date’ is on August 31. And I will be gone a bit before then.
Yesterday I have committed to participating in another challenge, of the local chapter of the German Patchwork Guild, on the topic of “at home” (in Bavarian dialect). I know what I want to do - although I will skip the local Bavarian dialect aspect - and need to get going on that. And then there are other things in the background. Busy enough to not spend too much time thinking about the future of my job. However, the future of the refugees whom I met through this job is constantly on my mind.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Demonstration, and started a new quilt

Last week Saturday I went on a real demonstration for the first time in my life. It was a demonstration against Germany's current practice of deportations to Afghanistan, and for the right of refugees here to get an education, and a title to stay at least for the duration of that education. It was hot, it was long, and it was interesting. 3500 people were there, they say. The demonstration was organized by a cooperation of refugee representations and over helper circles. It was amazing to see so many people actually expressing a similar opinion as I have. Too frequently it feels like not enough people think like I do.

However, the media have not reported about this. It is frustrating - how can they ignore a demonstration like this?

I started a new quilt recently, too. Still in line with this topic, that seems to be taking over my life again. It is a bit of  'compulsive sewing', as Kathleen Loomis likes to call it. Or another kind of meditation.

It will be another in the series "text messages". Because it does not always take letters to make a text (here is the linguist from earlier times leaking a bit of her knowledge.) But it's still far from done.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Monday, June 19, 2017

In Limbo - and the result

A good friend of mine sent me a message yesterday asking whether I had fallen off the edge of the world because she hadn't heard from me for so long. No, I not the edge of the world, but off a cliff probably. Still hanging in there, in limbo, waiting for news regarding the work permit for a third of my class. And so much depends on it, not only these eight people's lives, but some decisions of mine as well. If they are denied the work permit, I have decided that I will not continue with the job next year. But as long as I don't know, I can't start looking for something else. And if something else - what exactly will I be looking for? My former qualifications don't fit many jobs in this area, yet I know for sure I don't want to return to being the quilter in the family without my own income from some kind of regular work. One option I have is one that I had consciously decided against twice or three times before, and it is not much more attractive now than it was then. Other options need to be searched... And although I am not a very optimistic person and in limbo is hard to endure, there is still the very unlikely possibility that some wonder will happen, the work permits will be granted, everything will be ok... Am I dreaming?
This whole thing has turned into a small quilt, however. A sketch for something larger, perhaps, but this one right now is 14"x 10". It originated from a visit to the thermal baths with my husband early April, when I was forced to look at all those huge and very fleshy Bavarian naked bodies lying and walking around. Absolutely no diversity there, everything white, lots of male parts, and, unfortunately, mostly not very attractive. (One good thing - I felt very slim after those days, and beautiful!) But as I was in the thermal environment and pondering the lack of diversity, and the ugliness of the German flesh I had a flash vision. My students from Senegal - who are, of course, always properly dressed when they appear in class, are avid in fitness and training methods, and under their T-Shirts quite a bit of muscle bulges. So I imagined how it would be to march these six well-built and mostly very black guys through these masses of German flesh. Modestly clad with a towel around their waist I would have wanted to just walk them silently, in formation like a flock of geese, through the premises. Once would be enough. On second thoughts I added the one woman as the 'tail-end' - she would have been properly clad in some kind of fabric covering the 'indecent' parts.
That was what I then kept thinking about as my 'Dream Formation'. It kept reappearing, and now as I was waiting, it took shape.

I copied a piece of continental and national outlines from my son's wall map that is hanging in our kitchen onto a piece of dissolvable plastic.

 Then I stitched over the outlines of the countries in the north of Africa and most of Europe.

After quilting the continental outlines on batting and backfabric I then hand stitched into the 'water'-areas of the entire piece.

 Did a bit of positioning of the 'geese' and opted for the version that has a slightly less structured appearance, as they did not really travel in one flock.

As you can see on this detail shot: each triangle is initialized - the first letters of the first names of the students who are being kept in limbo...

And here it is in full, the little one: African Migrant Birds Dream Formation.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

German Patchwork Guild's AGM in Fürth

Every German child knows the name of the city Fürth as one part in the implementation of the railway system in Germany: the first train ran between Nürnberg andFürth in 1835, which is being taught in school as the date of the beginning of industrialization in Germany. Certainly a good date for the railway system, because, as everybody in the world knows, German trains are sooooo efficient. Whether the process of Germany’s industrialization was always for the good is another question and need not be discussed here. And, of course, there probably wouldn’t be an efficient railway system without the entire process of industrialization… Anyway - I had never been in Fürth before, and now the German Guild’s  AGM has brought me here.

Wednesday I spent all day trying to hang the EQA-exhibition, with a steep learning curve. Especially in the sense of ‘this must be done differently next year’. 

My right index finger is completely shredded from tying the nylon cords that connects these rows of small quilts. Next year I will have come up with a different way of doing it, and certainly much faster!

I am splitting my time between my duties for the Guild, and my own stand, which is partly being covered by members of the Herzogenaurach Quilting Bee group, where I taught a class last year, and who all live close by.

This is the first time I have had samples of blocks from The 70,273 project up on the stand. Not only have some people asked me about it and are planning to contribute, but others have already stopped by and delivered blocks they had made in reaction to the article in the Guild’s magazine I wrote for the April issue. 

Next year, June 2-5 in Celle, there will be a display of quilts from the project. I am especially pleased that the quilts group from Dachau are planning to commemorate the over 200 people who were taken from an institution in the area of Dachau, thank you to Annemarie Pattis and the group. But it is also moving to see people’s reactions when I am explaining the intention of the project. And already I have received blocks from a woman near Stuttgart who works in an institution with handicapped people, and is now planning to check whether she can find out more about the numbers.

But I also very much appreciated that one woman came up to me and talked to me about my involvement with the refugees. She said in her mind she had already written me a thousand letters of encouragement and support, and that was a wonderful thing to hear. Sometimes I wonder whether these are things I should write about on the blog, after all this was begun as a blog about my quilting and art. But these people are here, they are an important part of my life, and the way they are being treated by German authorities is also a part of the reality in the Germany I live in. I can’t keep silent about it, even though I sometimes feel very much alone. I know my opinion is not the majority’s opinion. Having a dissenting opinion in silence is easy, but won’t change anything. Speaking up is important, I think, and I will continue to do so, even though this is supposed to remain a mostly quilt-oriented blog. And I have heard about a demonstration in two weeks’ time where all volunteer helpers are supposed to get together in Munich. Of course I will go - I have never been part of a demonstration in all my life - and perhaps after that I won’t feel so alone about it all anymore.

But right now I am still in Fürth and haven’t even had a chance to look at the other exhibitions besides the one I put up. 

So after breakfast I will take advantage of the fact that I get early entrance into the hall and take a good look around. After all, I have six or seven different quilts hanging here, I am well represented.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

reflections from May

I haven't posted many lately - but I am still taking pictures of reflections. This is a selection from May.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

I hate brand name tags...

I hate brand name tags in clothing. They give me problems because they are scratchy and unpleasant. When I had ruined the new T-Shirt the other day and then peppedit up with a few sew-on-sew-off squares,  I thought I would be done with this topic for a little while at least. But I bought a new summer dress last week, and that, too, had tags in a very uncomfortable location.

And although I was particularly careful this time, the tag was so severely attached to the inner lining that despite my ability with the thread picker I could not remove it without again doing damage. 

That made me really mad. It’s on the inside, and I haven’t bothered to fix it - but am thinking about how to go about. Iron on something from the back of the inner layer, then lightly stitch around it, but it must not be too noticeable, because otherwise I might just as well have left the original tag there.What's the use of attaching these stupid tags - on the inside to begin with, so severely that they cannot be removed without doing damage - wouldn't it make much more sense to give the poor people who have to sew these in some Far East factory a good job...?

We still haven’t heard from District administration about the work permits for the students from Senegal… having to wait is getting unbearable. And although summer is here, the sun is shining, teaching is fun and rewarding, and I see how impressively their improvements in language skills are showing, my mood is a bit on the down side. Germany’s performance with deportations is appalling, our treatment of people as unwanted aliens is unworthy of a nation that once prided itself on being ‘a nation of thinkers and poets’. More and more am I feeling ashamed about being German.